Cueva de los manos

I had no plans to visit the east coast of Argentina.. But Argentina made different plans. AS already mentioned the road was closed when we tried to leave El Chalten.. And it remained closed, so our bus had to take a little detour. Instead of going up the ruta40 along the Andes, instead we drove all the way to and then up the coast before going back in land at the height of Chile Chico.. This turned our already long 11h bus ride, into a 15h bus ride. But I can now claim to have been at the east coast.. I may have been sleeping, but nobody needs to know that. In Lost Antiguos the “real” Patagonia experience began.. Arriving 4h later than planned made us decide to spend the night there and if we’re staying a night, we might as well stay two and visit the UNESCO world heritage site of the Cueva de los manos. Now when I hear Cueva, I’m thinking cave systems, deep under the earth… What you usually get here is an opening that’s maybe 25m deep. But, the cave is not famous for being a cave, but for being one of the very few remaining traces of the indigenous people that used to live here, going back almost 10.000 years for the oldest drawings.

Since the cave is in the middle of nowhere, we decided to take an organized trip there. Which turned out to be good, because they spiced up the entire thing, something we wouldn’t have done. It started out with a ‘hike’ of one our through the canyon the Cueva is in. Even though the guide kept talking about how frequently he saw pumas none showed their face that day. But we did get to see guanakos, choique and a couple of foxes. In addition, we were visited by condors a couple of time. As if all this wasn’t nice enough, the scenery is actually also really stunning.

We reached the cave a little before 3pm, perfect time for lunch, according to local customs. After that we visited the cave or, more truthfully, the walls surrounding the cave. The famous drawings are hand negatives, it’s assumed that people put their hand on the wall and then used a tiny tube to spit the color all around it. But there is evolution, one also finds animal prints from the nandus (or choique) and towards the end things get really creative.. See if you can make out what these things are supposed to be!

As a final stop we visited the place where the ancient tribes collected the colors to create the hand prints. This was a secret highlight for me. It reminded me, on a much much smaller scale, of Capadoccia in Turkey, but with many more colors. It was a fitting end.


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